Starting school brings new beginnings

Safeguard the wellbeing of your children as they prepare to start school

New beginnings bring new responsibilities

Your little one is getting ready to start school. This is a time of change which can be both exciting and challenging for children, and their parents, as they experience the early days of school and transition into a new environment.

Preparing a child for being school-ready requires what can seem like a never-ending checklist of things for parents to do. All these little tasks are important because they come together to help create a good foundation for your child in this new phase of their life.

The transition into school life requires thought and planning by parents as they organise school books, uniforms, lunches and the daily school drop off and pick up. This transition time is a good opportunity for parents to consider the future welfare of their child. You can’t control your family’s future, but you can create contingency plans in the event that something unexpected happens to you and your partner.

Have you planned ahead and appointed a Guardian for your child and provided for their future care? With the start of school being imminent, these are two things you should do today to help safeguard the wellbeing of your child (under 18);

  1. appoint a Guardian to care for the child in the event that both parents pass away or become unable to do so; and
  2. consider establishing a Testamentary Trust in your Will to manage and protect assets for your child until they reach a specified age.

Guardianship for your child

Appointing a Guardian for your child (under 18) can be a very personal decision for parents. Unfortunately, it is impossible to foresee or control your family’s future. What you can and should do, is create contingency plans in the event that something unexpected happens to you and your partner.

Appointing a Guardian can be a difficult task because no one can really compare to you as a parent. However, it is important that you are the one who decides who will be  best suited to take on this important task in the event that it is required. To choose the next best person to care for your child, you may wish to consider the following:

  • similarities between your lifestyle, values and religious beliefs – do these align with yours?;
  • who your child might already have a bond with;
  • whether the individual already has, or is planning to have children;
  • the transition, in terms of location and lifestyle, your child will need to make; and
  • practically, who can take on the role – physically, financially and emotionally.

Further considerations

Other things to consider, beyond the selection and appointment of a Guardian, are the details of how this may play out. For example, whether your child will move in with the Guardian, continue living in the family home, or in instances where the nominated Guardians are the grandparents who are living in retirement villages, the prospective living arrangements for your child.

A nominated Guardian should not suffer any financial burden or loss whilst acting in the role. Generally, the Guardian will have access to the child’s share of the estate, at the discretion of the Executor. Therefore, it makes sense to have two different individuals acting as Executor and Guardian of your child respectively. The Executor of your estate is in charge of distributing the money to your child’s Guardian in accordance with the terms of your Will. The Guardian of your child is responsible for making lifestyle decisions for your child. This will help to avoid conflicts of interest or any potential misconduct.

You could appoint the same person to fulfil the role of Guardian of your child and Executor of your Will if you have complete faith in them. However the nominated person(s) should preferably possess reasonable financial acumen.

Safeguarding the future

Trusts are designed to manage and protect assets for a child until they reach a specified age. There are a number of ways a trust can be set up for a minor (usually referred to as a minor’s trust):

  1. A minor can inherit assets from an estate (referred to as a ‘beneficiary’) and the will specifies that the beneficiary’s inheritance is to be held on trust until they reach a particular age (commonly 18, 21 or 25); or
  2. Funds can be set aside by a family member for the benefit of a minor in a trust fund.

Now that your child is about to embark on an education pathway you might want to think about what type of schooling you want for them. For example, is it your wish they attend a public school, private school, enrol in tertiary education? One thing is certain, funds are required to support whichever life choice you make. To help you provide financially for your child’s education, consider setting aside funds in a trust for them in an education fund.

When a trust is established, a trustee is appointed to manage the trust property in accordance with the terms of a will or a trust deed. In these circumstances, the role of the  trustee is to interact with the beneficiary’s guardian in matters relating to the trust, until the minor reaches the age specified in the will or trust deed. Friends or relatives of the beneficiary, who are over 18 years of age and Australian residents, can be appointed the Trustee. You may also like to appoint a professional Trustee Company such as State Trustees, or a corporation that specialises in legal, accounting or financial planning.

Next steps

Starting school is a new beginning for you and your child. It can be an exciting and challenging time. As a parent, it’s a good time for you to think about safeguarding your child’s future and preparing for the possibilities that lie ahead.

State Trustees can help you plan ahead today to safeguard the future wellbeing of your child with our Trustee and Will-writing Services. Call us today on 03 9667 6444 or 1300 138 672 (outside Melbourne) for a confidential, obligation-free discussion.

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